The Archive’s files on the construction market for steel provide information on modern steel construction, steel and architecture, structural steel, construction plates, steel and wood for residential construction, steel for bridges, steel for infrastructure building, construction alloy steels, “Cyclone” steel fencing, history of the structural mill, history of Otis Elevator Company, history of the skyscraper, early iron construction, the market for structural steel in New York City, expansion of the George Washington Bridge, outlook for the housing industry, U.S. steel shipments to the construction industry, an address by James B. Eads of Eads Bridge fame, and publications and papers on steel construction from the American Institute for Steel Construction (AISC), AISI, IISI, and United States Steel Corporation. Additional information on steel and construction is contained in the Archive’s book and reference collection in the following: A.I.S.C. Structural Shop Drafting Textbook, and Steel Construction – A Manual for Architects, Engineers and Fabricators of Buildings and Other Structures, both published by AISC; Iron and Steel Beams, 1873 to 1952, edited by Herbert W. Ferris; and David McCullough’s The Great Bridge.
Analysis:Construction activity, second to auto manufacturing as the largest source of steel demand, encompasses a multitude of diverse project types, from public works, such as highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, dams, and wastewater treatment plants; to commercial construction, including manufacturing plants, warehouses, retail outlets, and office buildings; to residential construction, encompassing single- and multiple-family homes and apartment buildings. The most steel is consumed in the heaviest projects, most of which are most often classified under the general heading of infrastructure and are often designed to provide some basic service to the general population.
The building and improvement of infrastructure represents a recurring need in both industrialized and developing countries, generating an ever present, though fluctuating market for such steel products as structural shapes, plates, concrete reinforcing bars, wire, and pipe. The extent of infrastructure building at any given time is usually determined by the availability and allocation of public funding, and many industrialized countries in recent years have placed a higher priority on social spending, which has created backlogs of delayed infrastructure projects.
Reinforced concrete has been the principal competitor of steel in infrastructure building and for other heavy construction projects, challenging steel even in high-rise construction. In recent years, however, the market inroads made by concrete appear to have been stabilized, and steel has been mounting an effective competitive challenge of its own, most notably against wood in framing for residential construction.
The steel industry had attempted to introduce steel-framed homes as early as 1933, with an exhibition at the Chicago World’s Fair, but its effort did not meet with significant market success until some six decades later, when a sharp escalation of lumber prices started to erode the resistance of carpenters and builders accustomed to working with wood. The use of galvanized steel framing has since made significant inroads into the home-building market, assisted by an active educational and sales promotion effort by steel companies and their trade associations, including AISI and IISI. Meanwhile, galvanized steel has become the preferred framing material for use in constructing hospitals, office buildings, shopping malls, and other commercial buildings.
General: The “General” files contain documents on the overall steel market and also on more specific sources of steel demand not categorized elsewhere in the Archive. The information provided includes steel-market forecasts, economic forecasts, instructions for reporting steel shipments, steel consumption by industries, steel distribution to consuming groups, demand for merchant wire products, capital-goods expenditures, high-technology capital spending, steel use in the electric-machinery industry, steel use in the chemical industry, and the U.S. geographic markets for tinplate.